Why should you go to the Detroit Zoo over another Michigan zoo? Specifically, why should you visit the Detroit Zoo this winter?
During the cold winter months, the last thing on many peoples’ minds is a day trip to the zoo. That’s only reserved for summer vacation fun with the kids, right?
Nope! Visiting the Detroit Zoo during the winter is one of the best winter things to do in Michigan…
On a random winter day in 2017, I bucked the trend and navigated my way to Royal Oak. I purchased my ticket and paid for parking. Inside the park of 2000+ animals of hundreds of different species, it became apparent why you should get to the Detroit Zoo TODAY.
It’s the Off-Season
Other people were there as well, but I felt like I had the zoo all to myself. It was “the off-season.” I had a front-row pass to see all the animals and for however long I desired.
Many people don’t know that the Detroit Zoo is open year-round.
To my advantage, the animals were more interactive than usual. Several of the staff members explained the reason behind this to me. During the hot and humid months, animals tend to want to hide in the shade and be lazy. (Don’t we all?)
Sure, the concession stands weren’t open, but I was relaxed in the cool air and the zebras were moving about without a care in the world.
Get Up-Close With the Penguins
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center was the best benefit of the empty zoo. There are eighty penguins of four different species housed at the Detroit Zoo. Their habitat is a simulated environment of their natural habitat.
The Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conversation Center is the biggest center for penguin learning in the world. Yes, that is right here in the Mitten!
I mingled with a couple of Gentoo penguins up-close as they came right up to the glass. The male penguins were placing rocks in a circle, as it was mating season. One-on-one interaction with exhibitors taught me these tidbits.
I proceeded downstairs where I watched the penguins swim circles from above and alongside.
Tip: During the summer when you enter the zoo, you get a scheduled time to go into the penguin center. Even then, good luck getting right up to the glass to see the penguins. Make winter the time to get here.
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is reopened as of Feb. 14, 2022!
Enjoy the Vitamin Z
My boy is still too young to truly experience the Detroit Zoo. Soon, though, he will take in a lot of “Vitamin Z.” He will experience lots of random moments of awe and joy.
Vitamin Z was an award-winning campaign that centers on children enjoying everything the zoo has to offer.
I think some of the ‘Vitamin Z’ rubbed off on me as I checked out the camels, tigers, giraffes, lions, anteaters, reptiles, butterflies, and more. The blood was flowing from all the walking and excitement on the zoo’s 125 acres.
Another highlight as I enjoyed the outdoors was The Arctic Ring of Life. I headed back underground to a seventy-foot walkway, watching numerous seals swim all around me.
The zoo is no longer home to seals but now has a sea otter exhibit.
I got my polar bear fix at the largest exhibit of its kind in North America. The Detroit Zoo doesn’t do small!
Fact: The Detroit Zoo is the largest paid family attraction in Michigan.
At the back of the grounds, I learned that the Detroit Zoo is the first in the United States to use exhibits without bars. This zoo helped revolutionize the entire field, I cannot wait to hear what they have up their sleeve next.
They take it a step further at the Australian Outback Adventure. I walked among many kangaroos and a wallaby with no barriers. Sadly, no hopping took place on the sidewalk alongside me.
What a day! Have you been to the Detroit Zoo in the winter?
More to Do in Metro Detroit This Winter
A visit to the Detroit Zoo this winter is just the tip of the iceberg of all the amazing winter things to do in Metro Detroit! From the best Metro Detroit cross country skiing trails to shopping at locally-owned stores across the region, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy winter in southeast Michigan!
Note: The Awesome Mitten Team is grateful to Aaron Cruz for contributing this article in 2017. We hope to revisit the Detroit Zoo in 2022 in order to expand and update this article to help you better plan your next visit.